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Prof. Jake Gross '00 Asks 'How Bad Is It?' in Op-Ed

November 10, 2012

"Just how bad has the student loan burden become?," asks Jacob P.K. Gross, an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Louisville and 2000 graduate of DePauw University, asks in an Inside Higher Ed op-ed. "Rhetoric of crisis dominates the current popular discourse, while a few voices call for calm, noting that the average amount of student indebtedness is roughly equivalent to the price of a new car. Obscured by the dueling perspectives and the attention-grabbing headlines, though, is a more disconcerting picture revealing that all groups and types of students do not carry the growing debt burden equally: Lower-income households, women, and students of color are most affected by the mounting debt."

Gross writes, "Student debt has grown for all income groups, but it is a greater burden for the lowest-income and least-wealthy households. For example, between 2007 and 2010, the lowest-income households saw an increase in the proportion of annual EAST COLLEGE TOWERincome represented by student loans. In 2007, student loan debt constituted about 15 percent of household income, whereas by 2010 it was 24 percent. This compared to 1 percent and 2 percent in 2007 and 2010, respectively, for the highest-income households."

The column concludes, "How bad is the student debt burden? The answer to this question is not simple. Recent coverage is sensational and overlooks context. Likewise a focus on averages obscures subtle but important differences in who bears the heaviest burden. The level of concern being exhibited now is healthy. However, we could do with less rhetoric and fewer car comparisons, and instead couple thoughtful debate with sound research and a commitment to action."

Read the complete piece at Inside Higher Ed.

An anthropology and Spanish major at DePauw, Gross holds an M.P.A. post-master's certificate and Ph.D. from Indiana University.

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